The Beast is out of the Bottle: Time to focus on IAQ

Apr 1, 2021DMA Engineering

COVID-19 can be transmitted through the air in bioaerosols — we now know that. The beast is out of the bottle and it’s been very hard to contain. The way we live, eat, breathe, and sleep has changed fundamentally since the beginning of this year. Our way of being has been turned upside down. 

Aside from wearing masks, eating outdoors, and staying far away from people – we haven’t changed our approach to how we manage our indoor air with an airborne pandemic. It is our shared belief, alongside the University of Colorado’s, is that the HVAC industry as a whole will need to change how it handles indoor air quality (IAQ). 

Currently, in the United States, there are nearly 5.6M commercial buildings that cover 87B square feet of floor space. Come winter in Colorado, those are likely to be fully occupied with humans. Humans who may or may not have been exposed to the virus, breathing shared air that is moving inside of ventilation systems. The ventilation systems are likely DCVs in the majority of commercial buildings. ASHRAE specifically advises building owners and facilities managers to disable DCVs in buildings.

What does all of this mean as we transition through the pandemic protocols?

With 90% of the US population spending time indoors, it means we need to get serious about how we manage, maintain, and care for our indoor air. It means the current way we are managing indoor air quality needs to change to reflect the pressures of the current world – pandemics, climate change, and heat/energy recovery for efficiency. The time is now and our collective health is dependent upon it.

Where to start? In a word — dilution.

“The general principle is that we want to dilute inside air with outside air,” Shelly Miller, Professor, University of Colorado. At the University of Colorado, every ventilation system on campus was analyzed and if necessary, upgraded to bring in as much outside air as possible. MERV 13 filters were used to ‘strain out’ any pathogens in the ventilation.

At DMA, we’ve been studying, recommending, and implementing ERV, HRV, and MERV filters for quite a long time. Why? Because these technologies offer the state of the art in terms of indoor air quality and protecting people from harmful pathogens, VOCs, you-name-it. We are hired to assess and create Building Readiness programs to improve IAQ and increase energy efficiency.

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Image Credit: Elizabeth Fischer